Follow @dmihalopoulosA Pakistani immigrant logged onto Twitter in Lake County a few days ago and touched many around the world with his reaction to the recent defilement of Jewish graves in St. Louis and Philadelphia.
“I’m a #MuslimMarine in Chicagoland area. If your synagogue or Jewish cemetery needs someone to stand guard, count me in. Islam requires it,” wrote Tayyib Rashid, a 40-year-old father of three and former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, on Monday afternoon.
Those words from @MuslimMarine had been liked nearly 13,000 times and re-tweeted more than 5,000 times by Friday.
“THIS is what it means to be an American,” replied a woman from North Dakota.
Monday’s tweet wasn’t even the most viral message from Rashid, who works in human resources for a pharmaceutical company in the northern suburbs.
In November 2015, he scored more than 55,000 likes and 40,000 re-tweets for his sharp retort to then-candidate Donald Trump’s proposal for a Muslim registry.
Posting a photo of his Marine ID card, Rashid trolled the future commander-in-chief, who received five Vietnam War draft deferments and never served in the armed forces.
“Hey @realDonaldTrump, I’m an American Muslim and I already carry a special ID badge. Where’s yours? #SemperFi #USMC,” Rashid wrote.
Over dinner this week at a Mexican restaurant in Vernon Hills, Rashid said he wanted to combat “what is happening” in America by teaching more of his countrymen what his religion really means.
He estimates that about 40 million Americans are “so indoctrinated with the idea that Islam is evil, that it’s a cult.”
Follow @dmihalopoulos“I’m not trying to convert anybody,” he says. “All I’m saying is that what you believe this religion teaches is not what this religion teaches.”
Rashid’s family moved to this country when he was 10, settling in Glen Ellyn. He was in the Marines for five years, with three overseas deployments.
He guesses he was the first Muslim that of half his fellow Marines had met. But he says he feels there’s no conflict between his religion and his adopted nation.
“Loyalty to my country is part of my faith,” Rashid says. “This country gave me freedom.”
A 1984 law in Pakistan targeted his family’s Ahmadi Muslim sect. The law makes it illegal for Ahmadi Muslims to even claim they are Muslims.
Rashid says he was moved to comment on the Jewish cemetery vandalism because extremists in his homeland desecrated the graves of Ahmadi Muslims, including both his grandfathers.
When he saw the news from Philadelphia and St. Louis, Rashid says, he thought, “That’s what happens to our ancestors back in Pakistan.”
Terrorists are “Muslims in name only,” Rashid says.
Ahmadi Muslims here have four mosques in the Chicago area and have created a website, trueislam.com, to counter negative perceptions and extremism.
Rashid says he prays that many who think poorly of Islam — and even President Trump — might yet experience a change of heart.
“All we can control is how we behave as Muslims, how we discharge our responsibilities to our community, our cities, our states and our country,” he says. “The rest is up to God.”
On Twitter, Rashid handles negative feedback patiently. This week, one woman told him he was “an exception not the norm,” and she sent him a story about a Muslim woman in Texas who allegedly made anti-Semitic comments.
He replied, “Certainly Muslims have legitimate political grievances but there is nothing in religion of Islam to support their extremist views.”
Rashid says he meant what he tweeted on Monday, but he’s still waiting for someone to take him up on the offer. Many on Twitter said the thought alone counted for a lot.
From Michigan, “a mom of a [Jewish Community Center] kid who’s dealt with a recent bomb threat” gave a high compliment.
She told Rashid, “You’re a true patriot.”